William Penn (1644–1718)

  • Daniel G. Payne
  • Richard S. Newman

Abstract

Born to a wealthy Anglican family, William Penn was first attracted to Quakerism while a student at Oxford in the early 1660s. In the years following Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658 and the restoration of the English monarchy under Charles II, the Quakers were considered suspect by both Puritans and monarchists for various reasons including their pacifism and refusal to swear loyalty oaths. By the latter part of that decade, Penn had become closely linked with the sect and had written a number of treatises in support of Quaker doctrines and religious freedom generally. Beginning in 1667, Penn was arrested and tried several times for various offenses related to his espousal of Quakerism. The following decade, Penn worked with a group of other prominent Quakers to establish a colony in New Jersey, and was instrumental in drafting a charter of liberties for the settlement. In settlement of a substantial debt owed to his father, Charles II granted to Penn an enormous tract of land in the colonies, designating him as “Proprietary and Governor” of the new province of Pennsylvania in 1681. Penn spent 1682–1684 in Pennsylvania, and returned for another visit in 1699, but failing health and legal issues pertaining to his financial affairs forced him to remain in England for the remainder of his life.

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Copyright information

© Daniel G. Payne and Richard S. Newman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel G. Payne
  • Richard S. Newman

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